DEL NORTE— During a meeting of the Rio Grande County Commissioners on June 26, Rio Grande National Forest District Forester Tom Malechek spoke to the board about the organization’s struggles with obtaining the old Del Norte High School. “We are having to relook at our plans to move into the old high school once the new school is built,” explained Malechek.
Over the last year, forest officials have been working with the Del Norte School District to purchase the old high school building in hopes of making it their regional office. According to Malechek, the organization has reached a snag from the national office, stating that the National Forest Service does not want them to have the building as it is.
“Basically, they consider the building to be too large for our operations. They have regulations in place that require us to only have so many square feet of space per individual employee and are saying that the building would be too large of an environmental footprint. So, we are currently considering other options.”
According to Malechek the national office would allow the move if they were willing to either close off a portion of the building, share it with another government entity or demolish a portion of the existing structure. “When we first started this, we walked into that building and were so excited. It had an auditorium that would be great for meetings and public use; it had plenty of rooms for offices and came with additional acreage that we could use for several different activities. Now we are looking at it in a whole new light and it is such a disappointment.”
The RGNF is still planning to obtain the building and hope that a compromise can be reached with the national office. “We know how the community feels about the historical significance of the building and tearing down any of it is our last option. It would be such a huge benefit to the area if we were able to make it our regional headquarters and I wanted the commissioners to be aware of what we are dealing with.”
“We had high hopes of another governmental agency coming to share the space with us, so we reached out to the local USDA but they have their offices established and so far are not interested in combining space. We are trying to explain to the national office that we pay so much a month to rent this other building and could actually own something, save money and have a wonderful space to work with, but their concerns remain the same. They do not want us to have this large environmental footprint in the area.”
Malechek stated that if there are any agencies that are interested in sharing the building, they would have to act within the next few months in order for plans to be made. “We have to act soon, and it would have to be another branch of the government in order for it to work.”
No decision has been made in regards to what the RGNF will be doing at this time, but they do plan on moving forward with obtaining the building.